The Cleveland Cavaliers turned desperation into results on Wednesday night against the Golden State Warriors, once again riding one of the NBA’s best home court advantages and finally making a series of this NBA Finals with a 120-90 cruise.
Down two games to none to the mighty Golden State Warriors, the inspired Cavaliers came out looking a lot like the group that had gone 7-0 at home in these playoffs. There was 71 per cent shooting from the floor, great defence at the other end, with the Warriors held to 1-for-10 inaccuracy on three-pointers and a clear Cleveland edge in energy and intensity.
The early warning of what was to come was Golden State’s worst opening quarter of the entire season and one of Cleveland’s best.
While the Warriors looked much better in the second, another Cavs rampage in the third put even explosive Golden State too far behind to mount a comeback.
James finished with 32 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, Kyrie Irving had 30.
Cleveland Cavaliers Dominate Golden State Warriors
Canadian big man Tristan Thompson was a force. Whether Cleveland was rolling or needed someone to battle, he outworked and outplayed the Warriors all evening. He was relentless on the glass, hauling in seven offensive rebounds in the first half alone. Thompson impacted the game the way Bismack Biyombo had for the Raptors in his best moments during the playoffs, finishing with 13 points, 13 rebounds and a number of staredowns.
“He’s the heart and soul of our team,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said of Thompson.
Like against the Raptors, Cleveland was a much different team on the shores of Lake Erie. Deadly from outside, stingy defensively with a vintage version of James at times.
Still, it was another weird outing for James and Stephen Curry, who have won six of the past eight MVP awards between them. James hit his first four shots, then missed 9-of-10, before dominating in the third, going 5-for-6, including an alley-oop dunk for the ages.
James had shot just 35 per cent from the field in his previous seven games against the Warriors, each of them losses. He wouldn’t be denied this time around.
Meanwhile, aside from a burst of his own in the third, Curry was dreadful.
He had just two points at the half, along with three turnovers and three fouls. Even 13 points in the third couldn’t rescue this one for the two-time reigning MVP.
Curry finished 3-for-9 from three for 19 points, Klay Thompson missed 6-of-7 outside looks and had just 10 points.
Draymond Green, the best player in the series through two games, had only six points on 2-for-8 shooting.
“We weren’t ready to play … We were extremely soft to start the game, and they set the tone with their intensity,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said.
“This was about one team being angry at being down 2-0 and the other being comfortable.”
The Warriors expected their opponent to play much better in Ohio, so this was not a huge surprise.
“Nothing’s going to be given,” Andre Iguodala had warned.
“It’s a very hostile environment. Their fans really bring it,” Green had added.
But yet again, the Warriors struggled in a Game 3.
The team lost Game 3 to the Rockets by a point, shooting just 24 per cent from three in that one, then gave up 120 points in the first road game against Portland and a whopping 133 against the Thunder in another Game 3 letdown.
Kerr had expected much better, saying at shootaround in the morning his team recognized “the opportunity we have tonight.”
Everyone is trying to make sense of this strange series, the second Finals ever where each of the first three games was decided by at least 15 points.
Kerr and his staff will have to figure out how to slow down a forceful Cleveland team that seems to do what it wants at home, attacking the rim at will and spreading the floor.
James had known full well what was at stake, that there would be no coming back from a 3-0 hole.
“We can’t afford to go down 3-0, especially against this team,” James had said. “I don’t believe we will.”
James boldly said that and then more than backed up his words with an overwhelming throwback of a performance that conjured up memories of his early work during his first stint with the Cavaliers.
The difference between the home and away performance of both of these teams has been staggering all playoffs long. Golden State is now just 3-5 away from Oakland.
Irving was brilliant, putting on a dribbling and shooting clinic, while also handing out eight assists after rarely passing the ball by the Bay.
The Cavs easily overcame the absence of Kevin Love, who was not cleared to return from his concussion and that sets up some interesting questions, since Love is expected to be given a green light for Game 4.